Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Winnipeg Perspective On Today

The Winnipeg Sun's Kirk Penton (one of the top writers in the CFL) has written thoughts on the LDC from his side of the field and its a good read.


REGINA -- The mood is much different in the Saskatchewan capital this year as summer comes to a close.

The Labour Day Classic rivalry between the Bombers and Roughriders has definitely lost some of its lustre thanks to the current state of the squads.

It's almost as if Rider fans are looking at their Bomber counterparts with sympathy these days. Those with colder hearts just giggle and ask how bad the Riders are going to pulverize the Bombers on Sunday in the 51st Classic at a sold-out Mosaic Stadium.

The Roughriders have the CFL's best record at 7-1, they've won eight consecutive Classics, and the majority of the 44,910 spectators in attendance on Sunday will be draped in Green and White since the belief is fewer Bomber fans made the trip west this year.

The Bombers, meanwhile, have lost six in a row, they're making their third quarterback change in the last five weeks -- Justin Goltz gets his third career start -- and they're 1-7. That's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their problems.

Never have the records been this disparate in Saskatchewan's favour going into the Classic. As a result, the Riders are favoured by a whopping 15 points.

Everyone thinks the Riders are going to crush the Blue and Gold except, of course, for the people who will actually decide the contest. They've been programmed to take nothing for granted, and that was the obvious party line from the Roughriders.

A popular topic of conversation on Saturday at a cool and breezy Mosaic was the 2011 Classic. The Bombers were 7-1 and the Roughriders were 1-7, but Saskatchewan cruised to a 27-7 victory. On Saturday the Riders were viewing that game as an example, while the Bombers were using it for hope.

The main thing Saskatchewan left guard Brendon LaBatte remembers from 2011, when he still played for Winnipeg, was the billboard the Bomber marketing department produced. It featured the teams' records with the tag line, "We love our Saskatchewan neighbours. They're just a little backwards."

"That was the biggest thing that comes back to mind," LaBatte said. "It's crazy to look back and see how the tides have turned. It's tough. I remember we came in here at 7-1 and we got beat, so you don't want to get too cocky and be feeling too good going into a game, because they're professionals. They're going to show up to play."

Helping the Roughriders in 2011 was the fact it was Ken Miller's first game back after the firing of Greg Marshall.

"We all just wanted to win so bad for him, because we weren't doing very well that year," Riders defensive tackle Keith Shologan said. "It was a huge part of that game."

Last year's Classic was Tim Burke's first game after Paul LaPolice's firing, and all it got him was a 52-point beating and Winnipeg's first shutout loss in more than 40 years. It's fair to say the Bombers are in even worse shape this year than they were 12 months ago, hence the predictions for the most lopsided game in CFL history on Sunday.

Even the Bombers appeared to have trouble finding positives going into Sunday's tilt.

"We're a really young team," head coach Tim Burke said. "I was counting up all the first- and second-year guys we have on our team, and we've got a lot of them. So coming here and playing in this environment is definitely going to be a challenge for all of them."

The Riders, on the other hand, have a veteran-laden lineup that is the class of the CFL, despite winning its last two games over inferior opponents by only three points both times. That's considered a mini-crisis here in the rectangular province.

Can you imagine what would happen if the Bombers actually won this game?

No, neither can we.

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